Waking up in the morning and realizing that you are hundreds of kilometers away from your motherland might be frustrating for some, but there are those who have actively sought out opportunities to leave their home country. Anna Kurylo and her husband are some of those people. Their search for better work opportunities and living conditions brought them from Kyiv, Ukraine to Brno, the Czech Republic. I had the opportunity to talk about this journey with Anna who is currently working as an associate manager at Red Hat.

You traveled more than one thousand kilometers to get to Brno. Why did you choose Brno as your destination?

We’ve been wondering what it would be like to live abroad for some time before the move. My husband got an interesting offer to work at Red Hat in the Ansible team in Brno. I went to Brno one month after he moved here.

Had you both ever tried to look for offers in the East? For example, in Russia?

Even though I am raised in a Russian speaking family, I still would not want to move to Russia. Especially because there is still a war between Ukraine and Russia.

What were your first feelings about Brno city?

I liked it. At first, we stayed in an Airbnb while looking for an apartment for a long-term rent. Finding one was a bit challenging because we didn’t speak Czech at all at the time, and just a few landlords spoke English.

While looking for apartments took a few hours a day, I also made time to explore the city and often walked around the city center.

Are there any noticeable differences between living in Brno and Kyiv?

Sure, there are. Kyiv is a city where at least 3 million people live. It is pretty big. The public transportation is privately owned and not very well organized. It usually took me 1.5 hours to get from home to work. And I had to switch from bus transportation to the tram and back again.

That is not great. Brno is well known for having outstanding public transportation. Do you agree with that?

Since Brno is a smaller city, and the timings for departures are set seemingly right, it takes me no more than 30 minutes to get to the office. And I really like that. Also, I can get to almost any other place within a couple of minutes. I consider it to be fine therefore.

After relocating to the Moravian capital from a city nearly 10 times its population, navigating a web of communication problems in the search for accommodation, and enjoying uniquely Moravian things like Brno’s city center and the šalina, Anna began the journey to become a red hatter.

How did you end up working at Red Hat?

My husband passed my CV to Red Hat. After some time, the company sent me the offer. So, I attended a couple of interviews and I ended up being a Red Hat’s employee for more than 2.5 years.

Can you share your experience with the hiring process? How were your interviews staged? When I was first interviewed at Red Hat, I did not feel very confident about myself.

It took a long time to actually get hired. If I remember correctly, it was about six months. At first, I was interviewed by the HR department in July. Then, in September, my current manager interviewed me. And finally, right before the Christmas shutdown, I had interviews with my manager’s manager, engineers, and a product manager. The product manager asked me about the ways I screwed up in the past job. I was so surprised by the question at that moment I could not think of any. Instead, I told a story about an arrogant architect from my previous job, who always committed to master without code reviews. Once he pushed a modified configuration file referencing the production database url for tests. One of my colleagues pulled the changes, ran the tests, and  the data in the production database got removed. Thankfully, we had backups, it was one day of outage.

That was a long journey; 6 months of interviews?

Yes, but from what I have heard from my colleagues, this process depends on a team. On the other hand, everyone was very friendly and no one was trying to find out the things I am bad at. Still, the final verdict was that I am hired. I started as a full-stack developer and now I work as an associate manager.

You are working as an associate manager at Red Hat. What are your responsibilities? Can you name the project you are working on?

Yes, I am working on the Red Hat Learning Subscription, specifically learning platform and things around it. That is basically where all learning is happening. We manage courses and classes for teams and instructors. The job of an associate manager consists of doing many things. I am doing One on One meetings, keeping an eye on processes within the project, or helping my managers. On the other hand, I am doing a developer’s job as well. I am still coding.

Seems like you have got plenty of things to do. How do you manage your working time?

I have divided the day into two parts. In the morning, it is the best time for me to get things done. I spend the time working on the project preparation and coding. After lunch, I have various meetings and calls with the team.

Does the recent IBM acquisition of Red Hat somehow influence your work?

Hmm… What I can tell is that IBM started to be more dominant in terms of requesting new features and filing bug reports. We now hear more feedback on the product from IBM than from other companies.

Due to the recent coronavirus pandemic, Czechia introduced lockdown restrictions. What was the impact on your job?

I do usually work from home, thus, the pandemic did influence my job almost in no way. Occasionally I traveled to the office though.

Are you planning to stay in the Brno office?

I am not actively looking to move outside of Brno. But if there would be an option to utilize the relocation within Red Hat, I would think about that. I have a colleague who is moving from Ireland to Austria, and I heard it was pretty tough to get all the paperwork done for him.

Work is not everything. Many people had a hard time maintaining their work-life balance during the recent state of mandatory work from home. As Anna has been mostly working from home even before the recent Covid-19 spread, I was curious what she does to unwind and keep her work-life balance, for lack of a better word, balanced.

How do you spend your free time? Have you got any hobbies?

I usually watch movies. Especially sitcoms and comedies. I have watched The Big Bang Theory, How I met your mother, and all ten seasons of Friends by myself. Let’s say this is my hobby. In my spare time, I am learning to draw. I bought a tablet for that because I do not like to use the physical brushes due to the mess they make.

Do you like fantasy or sci-fi TV shows/series as well?

I do! I wanted to watch Mandalorian. However, there was not an option to get Disney+ subscription in Czech Republic at this time, and I did not want to rely on those web pages that are flooded by ads and you have to click thousands of times to actually see the movie. But Mandlalorian is definitely on my list.

You think that somebody willing to pack up and relocate to a completely new place would not be the type to struggle with confidence. However, Anna said if she could change one thing in her life she would have learned to negotiate earlier on and this would have given her more confidence early in her career. That said, it is obviously never too late. A search for better opportunities brought Anna and her husband from Kyiv to Brno, and to Red Hat where she now wears the red hat, let’s say, of a manager and a coder. You can keep up with Anna’s latest goings on and reach out to her directly through her blog at https://bluebirrrrd.com/.